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Forthcoming in Leonardo Nancy Holt. Annual Ring (detail: interior); 1in square steel bars (157 vertical bars, wt. 5 tons); diam: 30ft; ht: 14ft 3 in; foundation:32concrete andsteelfootings, 1X 1X 3 ft; 1980-81. Site: a park on thesecondlevel of the Federal Building,Saginaw, Michigan.Thesculptureincludesfourcircularopenings: thetopopeninghas a 10ftdiameter;two8ft diameteropeningsare aligned east-westandframethe risingand setting sunonthe equinoxes;the northopening,6 ft diam, framestheNorth Star. Theringinthe ground, 10ft diam, frames the circular pattern of sunlight cast by the sun at its yearly zenith (solar noon: 1:36 PM on summer solstice, usually June 21). From forthcoming article by Janet Saad-Cook, “Touching the Sky: Conversations with Four Contemporary Artists”, Leonardo 21, No. 2 (1988). sections are not successful. Some are too short and make unwarranted assumptions about readers’ backgrounds. Many artists and designers will find these frustrating and will need to seek other texts for help. Also the book is perhaps too dominated by commercial thinking. There is little on experimentation by independent artists. Nonetheless, this will be a useful book for artists and designers who want to learn about computer graphics. THE NATURAL SCIENCES AND THE ARTS: ASPECTS OF INTERACTION FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE 20TH CENTURY Allan Ellenius, ed. Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm, Sweden, 1985. 177 pp., illus. ISBN: 91-554-1658-6. Reviewed by David Topper, History Dept., Universityof Winnipeg,Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 2E9, Canada. Thisis a collection of 11articlesdelivered at a symposium in Uppsala, Sweden, 25-28 May 1983. Nine of the papers are confined to the biological sciences (or, more specifically, the use of scientific illustration in natural history); the remaining two papers deal with perception and color. Hence the range of subjects is much more restricted than implied in the title. A key issuethat runs throughout many of the essaysisthe problem of empiricism in scientific illustration. The authors challenge the commonly held truism regarding the rise of empiricism during thescientificrevolution-a beliefperhaps CurrentLiterature 93 most often taken for granted especially for the more descriptive (and, therefore, less mathematical) sciences, such as natural history. An outline of the theses of these papers clearly casts doubt on the concept of ‘naive empiricism’. James S. Ackerman’s article, “Early Renaissance ‘Naturalism’ and Scientific Illustration”, focuses upon two main issues: the dichotomy between visual depiction of individuals (or ‘accidents’) and species (or ’ideals’); and the circumvention of this problem by the copying of illustrations from other pictures (rather than from nature itself). This (latter) persistence among artists for copying prototypes is also the theme of Paul Hulton’s essay, “Realism and Tradition in Ethnological and Natural History Imagery of the 16th Century”. In their depictions of North American native Indians and flora, artists relied heavily upon European conventions (or ‘schemata’, to borrow a term from E.H. Gombrich). For zoological illustrations, artists copied Renaissance illustrations throughout the seventeenth century, according to William Ashworth, Jr., in “The Persistent Beast”. Wolfgang Harms reveals that emblematics were still employed in sixteenth-century natural history books; in “On Natural History and Emblematics in the 16th Century”, he argues that, despite the lip service given to the rise of empiricism, “the objectives and the content of works on natural history and interpretative emblematic treatments of natural phenomena are not strictly to be distinguished” (p. 83). And in a study of nineteenth-century natural history, “Scientific Theory and Visual Language”, David Knight shows how such illustrations depended upon scientific theories about the flora and fauna represented. Again, ‘naive empiricism’ is displaced by a ‘visual rationalism’; or, to borrow a phrase from the philosophy of science, one may speak of scientific illustrations as ‘theory-laden’. Of course,the viewpoint thus presented is not unfamiliar to art theorists. For they are well aware that artists often rely more upon pre-existing schematic forms than direct visual experience, a fact which Gombrich has referred to as the ‘tenacity of convention’. On an issue perhaps more directly related to the adscience interface, David E. Allen in “Natural History and Visual Taste” declares that there was a parallel between Victorian natural history and the depiction of fashionable plants in design art. Allan Ellenius’ essay on “Ecological Vision and Wildlife Painting towards the End of the 19th Century” focuses upon the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 93-94
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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